The Faith and International Development Conference (FIDC) is held every February at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan with a goal of creating a space for sharing ideas and exploring passions among students and professionals from a wide range of backgrounds.
Participation in the conference has grown to over 600 students, faculty leaders, and organization representatives. Together they struggle to connect their minds, hearts and hands in an international context under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The conference strives to balance prayerful discernment of students' callings, relationship building among students and professionals, and practical learning about international development.
The first Faith and International Development Conference (FIDC) was held in the spring semester of 2006. A current Calvin College student and a recent graduate attended a conference on development-related issues and came away from the experience desiring to have a conference dedicated to helping students learn more about international development from development professionals and form connections within the development community.
Returning to college that fall, this Calvin senior and a group of other students proved to the faculty that students were able to organize an entire conference. With the generous support of the International Development Studies department, the first conference was held as a two-day event that attracted approximately 300 participants. As the conference neared its end, another student expressed enthusiasm for the conference and willingness to carry on leadership for the next year. Since then, FIDC has been an annual event in early February that annually attracts 300-600 participants to learn from development professionals from 15-20 development organizations.
FIDC is a completely student-centered conference. The planning and organizing of the conference is student-led, although essential support comes from other members of the Calvin community. The attendees are mainly students, so breakout sessions, plenaries, and everything else related to the conference is planned with a student audience in mind.
Speakers come from the field instead of academia. Realizing that students, especially those studying International Development Studies-related topics, have ample opportunity to learn from professors and others within the university system, FIDC invites development professionals to be plenary speakers and development organization representatives to lead breakout sessions. This conference provides an opportunity to connect and network with representatives of many development organizations.
The conference approaches development issues through the lens of faith and asks the question of how and why Christians should be involved in development. All sponsoring organizations must be Christian unless a specific exception is made. There are many organizations that do good work in development, but if they do not share the motivation and vision of working from a Christian perspective, their work will not have the same goals.